George Brumwell, the chairman of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, is to press the government to make the card scheme compulsory for foreign workers in construction.
His call comes in the wake of the deaths of 19 illegal workers on Morecambe Bay in Lancashire last week.

Brumwell said that the deaths of the 19 Chinese cocklers, who drowned after they were caught by an incoming tide, was a sad way to bring an employment issue to the national agenda. The people had been employed by gangmasters who exploited them.

He said the problem of illegal working was severe and called for swift action: "By introducing an approved card scheme to foreign workers we would make sure not only that they are competent but also that their employers complied with health and safety requirements."

Brumwell said that if the Chinese workers had been registered, their employer would have been required to comply with a health and safety code. Brumwell said: "The Home Office knows all about the CSCS, so we shall have to wait and see."

A Whitehall source said that one idea that was being discussed was to make it a legal requirement that all immigrants working in UK construction had CSCS cards. He said: "By having all foreign workers registered with CSCS they will have to have all the adequate safety qualifications, including language tests."

He said that enlargement of the European Union, due to begin on 1 May, had put pressure on the government to act. Citizens from across Europe are expected to make their way to the UK to find work.

A card scheme for foreign workers would ensure employers complied with health and safety

George Brumwell, CSCS